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Anorak | When Is Nazi Art Theft Not Nazi or Neo Nazi? When It Was The Anti-Semitic Vichy French

When Is Nazi Art Theft Not Nazi or Neo Nazi? When It Was The Anti-Semitic Vichy French

by | 5th, November 2011

A MASTERPIECE described as stolen in World War ll has been snatched back by US agents.

The Wall Street Journal last night headlined the story as:

U.S. Seizes Italian Painting Stolen by Nazis

The headline is classic of how a good to better than average news story can lead a city-editor or sub-editor up the garden path.

The original art theft had little or nothing to do with the Nazis but was centred around French anti-Semitism flourishing in the 1940s Vichy Government of Marshall Petain which had introduced a series of anti-Jewish legislation as a nod to it’s German overlords.

A fraud which led to a forced sale of a family estate was allegedly engineered by a Frenchman claiming a debt which was possibly non-existent.

The Tallahassee, Florida, Mary Brogan Museum of Art and Science had been exhibiting the Italian Renaissance painting by Girolamo Romano Christ Carrying The Cross Dragged By A Rascal (valued at between $2 and $3 million) since Mid March 2011 It was part of an exhibition of 50 Baroque paintings on loan from the prestigious Pinacoteca di Brera in Milan, Italy.

The painting is among many works of art and other valuable items taken in a forced sale from the estate of Federico Gentili di Giuseppe. He was an Italian businessman who lived in Paris and had built up an impressive collection.

Gentili died in 1940 in Paris, aged 72, of natural causes, just one month before the Nazi army defeated France. After receiving advanced warning of the impending Nazi invasion, Frederic Gentili’s children and grandchildren fled from France, escaping to Canada and the United States. Other family members died in concentration camps.

Gentili’s grandchildren started international actions to find and reclaim works illegally taken from their family during the Nazi occupation. A French Court of Appeals has already forced the Louvre in Paris to return five paintings bought in the forced sale. One later sold for a world record.
The painting now held by the US will not be returned to Italy until ownership is established.

The original AP and AFP

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Posted: 5th, November 2011 | In: Key Posts, News Comment (1) | Follow the Comments on our RSS feed: RSS 2.0 | TrackBack | Permalink